Life From toilet paper brawls to ‘anti-virus’ active wear: 2020’s memorable consumer moments
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From toilet paper brawls to ‘anti-virus’ active wear: 2020’s memorable consumer moments

Toilet paper shelves were stripped bare in the early days of the pandemic. Photo: AAP
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From panic-buying and purchase limits on essential items to lockdowns, social distancing and the eCommerce boom, 2020 was a wild ride for shoppers.

As Australia waits for the coronavirus vaccine and the retail industry gears up for the summer sale season, let’s take a look back on some of the memorable consumer moments of the past year.

Toilet paper panic-buying turns physical

Panic-buying and hoarding of toilet paper and other essential items swept the nation at the beginning of the pandemic.

Shoppers stocked up on rolls and rolls of toilet paper, pasta and canned foods, and supermarkets couldn’t keep up.

Empty shelves at a Coles in Adelaide early in March. Photo: AAP

Prime Minister Scott Morrison was even forced to weigh in, telling Australians to “stop hoarding … stop it”.

Ugly scenes of customers battling it out over toilet paper went viral, and some resulted in criminal charges.


In March, footage emerged of a mother-daughter duo with eight jumbo packs of Quilton toilet paper in their trolley fighting with a stranger in a Sydney Woolworths store.

The pair were found guilty of affray and handed conditional release orders by a magistrate in June, but the convictions were overturned on appeal earlier this month.

Local distilleries lend a helping hand (sanitiser)

Australia has no shortage of breweries and distilleries, and booze makers served up one of the feel-good stories of 2020.

In the early days of the pandemic hand sanitiser became a precious commodity, and shelves were stripped bare.

Local distillers and brewers pitched in to help out, turning their hands to brewing alcohol-based sanitiser to combat the coronavirus.

In Queensland, Beenleigh Rum Distillery and Bundaberg Rum Distillery used production lines and staff to make hand sanitiser, while in Melbourne, distillers Patient Wolf teamed up with Wolf of the Willows Brewing to whip up some bottles of the in-demand liquid.

Australian cricket legend Shane Warne even halted production of gin at the SevenZeroEight distillery that he co-owns to make medical-grade hand sanitiser for hospitals.

“This is a challenging time for Australians and we all need to do what we can to help our health care system combat this disease and save lives,” Warne said.

In August, NSW distillery Archie Rose donated 2000 bottles of their hand sanitiser to bottle shops and bars and restaurants in Victoria hit by the state’s lockdown restrictions.

“For all those who have been forced to close amid the current lockdown, as well as those keeping on, we’re there with you in spirit,” the Sydney distillers said.

‘Anti-virus’ active wear

The rise of wellness influencers and the leisure wear lifestyle trend has turned fitness brands into household names, but that doesn’t mean you can trust everything they tell you.

The consumer watchdog is taking Australian brand Lorna Jane to court over claims its clothes could protect against viruses.

Lorna Jane claimed its “anti-virus activewear” prevented and protected against infectious diseases. Photo: ABC News

In July, the company was slammed for claiming its “anti-virus activewear” could protect wearers from infectious diseases.

“LJ Shield breaks through the membrane shell of any toxic diseases, bacteria or germs that come into contact with it, not only killing that microbe but preventing it from multiplying into any more,” the Lorna Jane website said at the time, claims that were repeated on clothing tags.

Lorna Jane was slapped with a fine of almost $40,000 by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) in July, and in December, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) announced it would take Lorna Jane to the Federal Court for alleged false or misleading claims.

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